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A Comprehensive Guide on Ice Dam Removal

    Winter is a beautiful time if you enjoy winter sports, but seasonal changes bring entirely avoidable challenges if you are a roofer. Ice dams or ice damming near the roof’s edge cause numerous problems for homeowners. Preventing ice dams on the top becomes a real solution to the problem if you engage in winter gutter care. Don’t worry if you have a metal roof ice dam; the exact solutions apply to your roofing system to prevent costly repairs that other roofing systems experience due to a lack of preventative maintenance. We’ve all heard horror stories from friends and neighbors; some have lived them ourselves when ice dams invade our roofs. Your roofing system is your home’s first line of defense, and it is the responsibility of every homeowner to monitor the roofing system during the winter storm season. A fresh blanket of snow will hide an ice dam from view, and the longer it remains, the more it will cost to repair the problem in the spring.

    Why are Ice Dams Bad?

    Aside from the apparent damage caused by ice dams (lifting shingles, gutters pulled from the fascia, and water leaks into your home), ice dams cause many other issues. Water leaks, the deadliest enemy of a roofing system, can cause damage to your attic, insulation, drywall, and electrical systems, as well as health problems when mold grows after a leak. The origins of ice dams are straightforward: warm sunlight melts snow, converting it to water, just as we learned in science class. When water freezes at the hard edge of the roof, dams form. This cycle will continue unless corrective action is taken. Other causes of ice dams will be discussed further below. The most common cause of ice dams is inadequate roof ventilation, which is a formula for disaster when combined with other conditions. Poor or no attic insulation causes snow to melt because heat is delivered directly to the decking and radiates to the shingles. If your bathroom exhaust fan vents into your attic, it introduces warm, damp air into the mix, producing heat radiation to the roof. Last but not least, folding stairs leading to the attic with little or no insulation promote heat loss, which must go somewhere, such as the roof. These are just a few reasons for ice dams, but they are the most general and simple repairs for your roofing system.

    Methods for Removing Ice Dams

    Blow in Cold Air

    You don’t want to hit your ice dam with a hammer, chisel, or shovel because it will only harm your roofing system. Changing the temperature in your attic is one solution to the problem. An injection of cold air is used to stop the melting on the roof. Aim a fan straight at any leak to refreeze it and act as a sealant, preventing water from cascading into the attic.

    Rake It

    Run a long-handled rake over the ice dam to reset the temperature in the ice dam region; this can be done without damaging the shingles.

    Use Heat Cables

    The goal of employing heat wires is to achieve temperature equalization. To install them, go to the roof edge and put a zig-zag pattern along the roof’s lip. Install the cabling before bad weather strikes, as it will be easier to implement this solution in good weather than in bad.

    Use Warm Water

    Gently running hot water over ice dams will cause the ice to melt and run down the gutters to the downspouts and away from your house. In the long run, removing the clog will prevent channels from being dragged away, causing shingle problems.

    How Not to Remove Ice Dams

    Manual Removal

    Taking tools to an ice dam is the last thing you want to do. The agencies will clear the ice dam, but they may also lift the shingles, which is not good. Ice dams do not simply evaporate; they regenerate in the exact location, owing to the previously discussed issues. The dam will form fractures and gaps, separating the decking at the roof’s edge. This causes leaks, and leaks in the attic are prevalent during the spring thaw.


    The chemical de-icer you use on your top can damage asphalt roofs. If the chemicals are left for an extended period, they form an almost acidic base that eats away at the shingles. In addition, if the shingles were not manufactured to withstand the chemical component of the de-icer, using a chemical de-icer may void the guarantee. And it is not something you want to discover when filing a warranty claim for your roof.

    Permanent Fixes for Ice Dams

    Ventilate Eaves & and Ridge

    In the winter, you want chilly air to circulate. This can be fostered by installing a ridge vent and soffit to bring cool air into your attic. One vent should be installed for every 300 square feet of the attic area for adequate ventilation. Install baffles as well to provide regular airflow into the attic.

    Cap the Hatch

    Cap the hatch with foil because it is a wide hole for heat to escape from the inside of your home.

    Exhaust to the Outside

    To prevent heat buildup and heat radiation via the attic, dryer vents and kitchen and bathroom ducts must be vented outside.

    Install Sealed Can Lights

    When installing outside lighting, use IC fixtures for the most outstanding results. Recessed lights emit plumes of heat and cannot be sealed without posing a fire risk.

    Flash Around Chimneys

    To cover gaps between the house and the chimney exterior, get an L-bracket(s) and encircle it. To stop the heat flow in this location, use a flame retardant sealant to plug the gaps between the chimney and the roof.

    Seal & Insulate Ducts

    Cover HVAC and exhaust duct apertures with R5 or R6 foil-treated fiberglass using fiber-reinforced mastic.

    Caulk Penetrations

    Use flame retardant caulking to fill gaps around cables, pipes, and vents. Then, if you see the light coming in from the inside, use a generous amount of the same caulking to seal the gap.

    Understand the Lifecycle of an Ice Dam


    Except for the gutters, heat accumulates in the attic and radiates to the roof.


    When the snow melts, the water flows to the gutters and refreezes.


    Ice forms in gutters; a dam is built. Step 1&2 is repeated until the ice dam creates. Warm water backs up under the shingles and into the attic, causing a leak.

    Learn more: Can You Replace Shingles On Your Roof In The Winter?